Growlers to send four to All-Star Game
Kalamazoo, Mich. — Rosters for the 2014 Northwoods League All-Star Game, presented by Fiduciary Management, Inc., were announced on Friday, and the Kalamazoo Growlers are set to send four players to the July 22 game at Kapco Park in Mequon, Wis.
Catcher Ryan Lidge (Notre Dame), center fielder Troy Montgomery (Ohio State), right fielder Jared Kujawa (Western Michigan) and pitcher Ryan Smoyer (Notre Dame) make up the first contingent of all-stars in Growlers franchise history.
Lidge, a rising sophomore, has provided the Growlers with steady defense behind the plate all year long, controlling opposing running games with a quick pop time and strong, accurate throwing arm. But towards the end of the first half, his bat heated up as well. The switch hitter slugged home runs in late-June contests against the Wisconsin Woodchucks and Battle Creek Bombers and at one point had 10 hits in 15 at-bats. His average currently sits at .304.
Montgomery had to deal with a jammed finger early in the year, but that's been one of the only things that's slowed him down. The rising sophomore has a smooth swing from the left side of the plate that generates consistent hard contact, as well as some serious pop. Montgomery is currently eighth in the league with a .336 average, but 10 of his 41 hits have been for extra bases and his .906 OPS also places him among the league leaders.
Kujawa, a rising senior from the hometown Western Michigan Broncos, is one of the more experienced players on the Growlers' young roster, and he has certainly led by example. He has played in 42 games, three more than anybody else on the team, and has totaled a .291 average with a team-high four home runs. Kujawa also has provided reliable defense in the outfield, demonstrating good range and a strong arm, and has even chipped in at second base and on the mound when needed.
Smoyer has unquestionably been the Growlers' most impressive pitcher this season. The rising sophomore has won his last five starts, with his most recent one, where he held the Madison Mallards to two hits in eight inning, earning him Northwoods League Pitcher of the Night honors. Smoyer uses his 6-foot-4 frame to work on a consistent downhill plane, and while he doesn't subsist on blowing hitters away for strikeouts, his potent mix of fastball, changeup and two breaking balls can be devastatingly effective when everything's working. He has held opponents to a .199 batting average, a number good for seventh in the league.
The teams for the All-Star Game were chosen by a team coaching staffs and media. This year's festivities, which begin at 5 p.m. on July 21 with a banquet, will include guest speaking appearances from MLB commissioner Bud Selig and Hall of Famer Robin Yount. The game will be played at 7:45 (EST). A full release on the game and its festivities can be found here.
The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. The 20-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, 120 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (DET) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Allen Craig (STL) and Ben Zobrist (TB). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League YouTube channel. For more information, visit www.northwoodsleague.com.